HUD Makes Changes to Background Screening Rules

April 11, 2016 |

Updated April 27, 2017

2 minutes

Property managers of single-family and multifamily rentals will no longer be able to turn away a prospective tenant on the sole basis of an arrest record.

A new policy issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), says that an arrest alone shouldn’t be used in tenant screening. The manager now needs evidence of a conviction when considering a tenant’s application.

According to HUD’s new policy, “As the Supreme Court has recognized, ‘[t]he mere fact that a man has been arrested has very little, if any, probative value in showing that he has engaged in any misconduct.’ … For that reason, a housing provider who denies housing to persons on the basis of arrests not resulting in conviction cannot prove that the exclusion actually assists in protecting resident safety and/or property.”

To conform to HUD’s guidelines, managers should review their rental policies and clarify that a conviction — and not solely an arrest — will be used in screenings.

In addition, HUD recommends that rental policies should specify what types of crimes automatically disqualify applicants. These may include drug dealing, violent and sexual crimes, theft and arson. Outlining specific criteria in the rental policy aids a manager’s burden of proof in rejecting an application.

A rental policy also should be written in a way that answers questions about the nature, severity and time of the conviction. Be sure to consider any special concerns or restrictions necessary to protect rental communities that tailor to specialized groups such as seniors and families.

Managers should have their housing specialist attorney look over the revised rental policy to make sure it complies with HUD’s guidelines.

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